In the 2004 cult hit “Mean Girls,” Plastics member Karen Smith is frequently demeaned for her lack of intelligence.
It’s funny in the film, but nobody wants to be treated this way in real life — especially at work.
In most instances, if you feel like you’ve been assigned the role of the resident office fool, there’s probably a simple explanation.
- You’re behaving in a way that makes people think you’re stupid.
- Your coworkers are jerks.
- Both of the above.
Before you can begin to figure out what the issue even is, you first must determine whether or not your colleagues are actually behaving in a condescending manner.
Here are some clear signs that your colleagues do think you’re dumb:
1. They always argue with you
Some people just love to pick fights. But, if you feel like you’re constantly getting piled on by multiple coworkers over minor things, then that’s a bad sign. They might be squabbling because they see you as an easy target — someone they can put down to prove their own intelligence.
However, keep in mind that it’s important to differentiate between rude, mean, and bullying behaviour — aggressive arguments should only be considered truly problematic if it’s repeated over time and involves an imbalance of power, as Signe Whitson wrote for Psychology Today.
2. They’re terse and sarcastic
Don’t you hate getting texts that just say “k”? The conversational equivalent of that may be a sign that your colleagues underestimate your intelligence.
If their responses tend to be short and blunt with a side of sarcasm, then they probably don’t value your insight very much.
3. Their body language is rude
Sneering. Glaring. Staring. Smirking. Eye rolling.
If you notice this contemptuous body language in your coworkers, then that pretty much confirms that you’re the target of workplace mockery.
4. They ignore you
Feeling ostracized in the office isn’t a good sign. If people label you as stupid, then they won’t think that you’re worth consulting on projects.
“We’ve been taught that ignoring someone is socially preferable — if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all,” University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business Professor Sandra Robinson told the Daily Mail. “But ostracism actually leads people to feel more helpless, like they’re not worthy of any attention at all.”
5. They laugh at you
Do your coworkers snicker after you say something that wasn’t meant to be funny? Are you constantly the butt of jokes and pranks? Maybe your colleagues appreciate your good sense of humour, or maybe you’re the office laughingstock.
It’s important to check back with yourself if you feel like others are mocking with you. Are you in on the joke and chuckling along with them? Does your office just have an environment where people bust each others’ chops? Or is all the teasing making you feel humiliated?
“People who are in the process of being humiliated are usually left stunned and speechless, and, more than that, voiceless,” writes Dr. Neel Burton for Psychology Today.
6. They act surprised when you succeed
When you triumph in the office, do you receive congratulations or stares of outright shock? If you’re getting the latter, then your colleagues probably don’t think very highly of your abilities.
7. They never ask you for help
Are you constantly offering to assist people and getting shot down — even when you know for a fact that your coworkers could use more hands on deck?
That’s not good. They might think that you’ll just make matters worse with your help.
8. They refuse to help you
You ask for help and nobody lifts a finger.
Maybe your coworkers are busy — or jerks. Alternatively, they might have just deemed your problem too silly or straightforward to waste time on.
9. You’re down on yourself
Feeling stupid can lead to a vicious cycle.
If you think that you’re dumb, then others may pick up on your self-critical vibes and go along with it, which in turn leads you to feel even less intelligent.
So even if you feel completely out of your league, it’s important to at least fake some confidence. Otherwise, people will swoop in and take advantage.
10. You talk a lot about your impressive abilities
“The stupidest thing someone can do is overestimate themselves,” Budapest’s Institute of Psychology at Eotvos Lorand University professor Balazs Aczel told the Independent. “What that tells us is that you don’t have to have a low IQ, in people’s eyes, to act stupidly. You just have to mis-perceive your abilities.”
If this sounds like you, it’s probably time to start practicing some self-awareness.
11. You curse a lot at work
Swearing in the office may feel cathartic, but overdoing it will ruin your colleagues’ perception of you, as Shana Lebowitz previously reported for Business Insider.
12. You’re always terrified about looking stupid
Oftentimes, we’re so nervous about appearing incompetent that we’ll forgo asking for help or insight. However, as Time reported, a report from Harvard Business School and Wharton discovered that “people who seek advice are likely to be thought of as more competent, at least by the people they’re asking.”
So if you’re in the habit of messing things up on your own, consider asking for assistance next times. Your coworkers’ estimation of your intelligence will probably go up as a result
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